Gary's Gun Notes #46

This Gun Notes may well be a bit early but several things have come up that I need to yap about. Our scores from the last African hunt are out and they are fantastic. Of 90 animals taken, 86 were eligible for the record book. Some animals are not scored, like giraffe, zebra and such non-horned animals. Anyway, 86 were eligible for the record book. Of these only 11 didn't make the book. One was missing, which was Sean's Cape Bushbuck, but I know it went record book as I have a picture of it. 

Anyway, a tremendous hunt. And we will be hunting in the same area in April 2007, so it's time you jumped in and joined us. Give me a call if you are interested 928-526-3313. 4 openings left.

Our new reloading manual is within a couple of days of being released. Jim Taylor got a pre-release of it and says it looks good. 

Every few days I have someone call to ask how to set up a reloading bench for a beginner. What equipment is needed and not needed? Well, rather than post something this big on the forum, I thought I would do it here instead. Remember though that these ideas are mine only and not necessarily the best way to do things. I started reloading 40 years ago this year and have done a lot of it but I am also set in my ways and not prone to change to something new. So take this advice as just that, advice from one friend to another.

First off, forget progressive presses. They are great if you need to shell out a ton of ammo fairly quick, but they are not great for precision ammo, and by this I mean hunting ammo. There are also many things to watch for when loading on a progressive press. You could end up with a couple hundred with no primer or no powder or the wrong amount before you catch your mistake. 

Start with a good single stage or at most a turret press. If you have some knowledge of reloading a turret press is a good one, but if you are a beginner, go with a single stage. The only single stage press I recommend is the RCBS Rockchucker. This press is big, heavy and probably the best single stage there is. I bought a Rockchucker in '70 or '71 and I still have it. I also have 4 Dillon's sitting on my bench but they are for mass produced ammo, stuff to do my test firing with. I shoot about 1000 to 1200 rounds per week test firing the various guns and for this I use a progressive press.

The Rockchucker press is the best because not only is it the strongest but it is a tall press and if you are loading long cartridges like 375 H&H, 8mm Mag, 7 STW and such, you will need this press rather than a standard size press. I would suggest you buy the Rockchucker Master Reloading Kit. In this kit you get many of the items you will need anyway. You should be able to find one for $225 or so. The press alone should run you about a hundred bucks. If you just buy the Rockchucker by itself then while you are at it pick up a good electronic scale (under $100) , a powder dispenser and powder measure stand (both should be under $100), a small inexpensive manual scale to check your electronic one from time to time, a primer tray, a lube pad, lube, a separate priming unit. I don't like the one on the press as they seldom seat primers the same. I like the RCBS Automatic Priming Tool. It is product #9460 and is great. Probably $75 to $90. As quick as you can work a handle it primes a case. And you can feel the primer seat. No guessing. 

Now as we go along you will notice I use a lot of RCBS. I also like Hornady. The rest is so so in my estimation. I wouldn't own a Lee press, period. Or any Lee products. Nuff said.

I use the RCBS electronic scale, normally under $100. I don't like the scales that dispense powder thru a little tube at the bottom. Every time you use it you have to go thru a testing process and then when you are finished with one powder, before you can go to another powder, you have to take the whole thing apart to get all the powder out of the internal crevices. By the time you do all this you could have put powder in a couple hundred cases using the standard electronic scale and Uniflow Powder measure. Time is valuable to me.

Somewhere down the line you will need a case trimmer. For years I used a Forster trimmer and I still have it. But in the last year or two I have switched to an electric trimmer by RCBS. It is a bit more costly but saves a lot of time over the hand crank method. But for most starting out I normally recommend the Forster Trimmer. If you buy the Forster trimmer instead of the electric trimmer then pick up one of the RCBS Trim Mate Case prep Centers with the money you saved. They are well under $100 and worth their weight in gold. They clean up the brass after you trim it, getting the rough edges out and chamfering the mouths of the cases, which is very important. 

For finding out whether your cases are too long or not a good digital set of calipers is an extremely useful tool. I like digital as there is less chance of a screw up. 

Reloading manuals are absolutely necessary. Buy as many as you can. Look at gun shows and pick up old editions for a few bucks. Very little of the data changes thru the years. They add new powders and bullets but the general info is the same. I have probably 10 to 15 manuals on my bench, some going back to the 50's. My favorite manual is the Lyman reloading manual. It is a large soft bound book and what is different from the rest of the books is this. Books like Speer, Barnes, Hornady etc all like to push their bullets and equipment. Lyman does not make powder or bullets so they show loadings for all the bullets including lead bullets. They also give you a tentative most accurate load which is always a good place to start. 

A good vibrating case cleaner is a good thing to have but not necessary at first. You can get by for a while without one. But when you do get one that vibrates, not one of the tumbler that rolls over and over. The vibrator works better and quicker and in most cases is quieter.

Most cleaner mediums come as either crushed walnut hulls with rouge or corn cob with a polish. To start with buy them both and mix them together. One will clean while the other will polish. If it gets weak, go thru your wife's old compacts and salvage some of the rouge that stays in the corners. Crush it up and put it in the vibrater. Just make sure and check with your wife first.

I wouldn't advise getting into casting your bullets until you have the reloading down pat. Casting bullets is easy and simple to do, but as with reloading there are several rules to go by and you can't remember all of them at first. And when casting bullets at 600 degrees there is no room for error. I will go over this at a later date.

If possible always buy carbide dies. These are mainly available in straight wall pistol cases. A couple of companies make carbide rifle dies but they are very expensive and to me not worth it. The pistol dies, like 357, 41, 44 etc are available as carbide dies and you save time and effort due to not having to lube the cases. If you do lube your cases, I use the Hornady One Shot spray lube. You spray the cases while they are sitting in the case block, then while the lube dries, you get your dies set up in the press. The spray lube dries to a white dry graphite type lube that isn't messy and if you get some spray into the case it won't hurt the powder or primer. 

Again hit the gun shows and watch for the tables that have traded in reloading gear. You can always find good items at usually less than half price. Or watch the web sites that have these items to bid on. Even boxes of bullets that are half empty are good investments. Every gun is different and you need to try several different types of bullets to find the one that your gun likes. If you find a few boxes of bullets that only have 25 or so in them, that is great. Better to buy a partial box than to spend $30 on a full box just to find that your gun doesn't like that brand or weight.

Powder is not as spooky as some people make it out to be. Except for black powder, none of it is explosive. It is a propellant, not an explosive. Just store it in a cool dry place. Not in a damp basement and you will have no problems. The same goes for primers. Just store them in a cool dry place where they won't get hit or jostled and you will be fine. I use one of these cheap white plastic 4 foot tall drawer sets that you can get cheap at Sams or Wal Mart. They work fine for primers and other odds and ends and usually fit right under your loading bench. 

I have a drawing for a reloading bench that works great. I have used that drawing for several benches thru the years. If you are thinking of starting but have no idea what to start with, get me your mailing address or fax number and I will get it to you. I have probably given that drawing out to several hundred people thru the years. I am not an artist but the bench works. 

As you get your gear set up if you have questions feel free to post them on the forum or e-mail me or even give me a call if you like. That's what we are there for. Remember reloading is not hard at all. It is fun and saves you a lot of money. Ammo that costs $30 a box can be loaded for $10 or less. So it doesn't take long to recoup your expenses buying the equipment. Thru the years I have had Kase working with me at the reloading bench from the time he was 7 or 8 onward. It gives him something to keep him occupied and teaches patience. Plus it makes them feel like they are part of your world and that is important. 

Give reloading a try. I think you will like it.



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